Our Example and True Shepherd

Easter 4 Monday

1 Peter 2:20-21

“For what kind of fame is it if you endure beatings for transgressions? But when you suffer and endure for the sake of doing good, this is grace with God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for us and left us an example, that you are to follow in his steps.”

 

To emphasize such exhortation, St. Peter presents us as example the true Master, our Head and Lord, Christ, to whom this happened as well and who had to suffer the most. But he talks about him, in the customary way of the Scriptures, by presenting him as a twin or in a dual form, not only as an example – as one may present also other saints – but also as the true Shepherd and Bishop of our souls who suffered for us and sacrificed our sin in his body on the cross. In the latter form he is our treasure, comfort, and salvation. And the apostle paints this example very beautifully and gloriously in his highest and noblest degree in order to entice and move us all the more to patience. He posits the true chief parts which make all our sufferings quite simple and insignificant by comparison. For this passion, he wants to say, or suffering of the Lord Christ has an excellent, lofty glory and great advantage over all others. First, that he left an example. Second, that he suffered for us all. Third, that he suffered in complete innocence, as the one who never committed any sin. These three parts we shall and will leave for him alone and want to humble ourselves and say that, even if we had suffered all kinds of deaths, it is nothing compared to his suffering. For although it is the very best, highest, and severest suffering, it is no more than following his footsteps and example, but not reaching the Master by far. He alone remains the Master who retains the precedence; let everybody else follow his example as well as they can. But this example we will hardly attain from afar. For no man on earth understands how great his suffering and anguish were and how sour and bitter it all became for him. And since we cannot know or understand it, we will much less be able to imitate it or follow him. Let us thank God that we see it before us and follow, but we are not even close, although one comes closer than the other, depending on how much and severely he suffers, depending of having more or stronger faith and patience. This is why he says that Christ is the example, not of one or two saints, but of all, so that they all must look to the ground and say: “My suffering may well turn sour, bitter, and difficult for me, but when one is to speak of my Lord Christ’s suffering, I will gladly be quiet; for this example is above every other on earth.” Now, this alone should be enough as an exhortation and enticement to suffer patiently: Christ himself, such a high person, the one and eternal Son of God, went ahead of us into such a lofty suffering that no man can attain or endure. What, then, do we want to complain when we, who are lowly untested students compared to this Master, experience some sufferings for his sake – although he is pleased that we nonetheless follow after him, learn from him, and remain his students. … The other aspect that makes this example so high and beyond compare is that he did not suffer for himself, also not only as an example, but that he suffered for us. Now, that is the most impossible aspect to achieve. And no saint can boast here that he, according to the example, has suffered like Christ for our sin. No, here all boasting is cut off. In this, Christ did not leave an example, and no one can follow him. Rather, he alone was the one who suffered for all, both for those who are now called and holy and for those who are as yet uncalled and sinners.

 

St. Louis ed., 12:545-547.

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